Despite the popular narrative that Maldives is nothing more than an over-indulgent beach destination, it’s a nation rich in culture with a long and diverse history. It’s estimated that the islands were inhabited as early as the 5th century bce by Buddhist peoples from southern India and Sri Lanka. Islam was adopted in the 13th century and the Maldives became a sultanate and later a kingdom and republic before finally becoming independent in 1965.
Religion: Islam is the state religion and it’s illegal to openly practice other faiths. The majority are Sunni Muslim but other religious communities do exist, particularly Hindus and Christians. Language: Maldivian (Divehi) and English are both spoken.
Food: The cuisine is heavily influenced by South Asia, but you can expect plenty of fresh seafood and coconut-based dishes. The curries are especially delicious and a highlight of the local cuisine, with variations in ingredients depending on the region. Tuna curry, known as Mas Riha, is a classic filled with fish, coconut milk and a variety of spices, while vegetarian curries can be found at many resort restaurants. Locals tend to eat at home with their families, or at a small local cafe and love spending time in company over a cup of tea.
Most resorts offer a half-board option which includes breakfast and dinner, but it’s advisable to book accommodation at a couple of different resorts if you want to experience the full local dining scene. This way, you can have a bit of everything at each hotel and not feel like you’ve eaten the same thing every day.